Five MLCs each but BJP outwits MVA

Updated on Jun 21, 2022 09:15 AM IST
While seemingly a tie, Monday’s results cemented BJP’s position as a powerful opposition and presented a grave challenge to the MVA parties, as it secured votes from independent and smaller parties as well as from ruling party legislators
BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis alongwith BJP party MLA's celebrate after winning all 5 seat in MLC election at Vidhan Bhavan in Mumbai. (Anshuman Poyrekar/ Hindustan Times)
BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis alongwith BJP party MLA's celebrate after winning all 5 seat in MLC election at Vidhan Bhavan in Mumbai. (Anshuman Poyrekar/ Hindustan Times)

Mumbai: Of the 10 Maharashtra Legislative Council seats up for grabs, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won five seats and the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) parties won the remaining five. Among the ruling coalition parties, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Shiv Sena won two seats each while the Congress won one, with Chandrakant Handore losing his seat.

All five of the BJP’s candidates, Pravin Darekar, Uma Khapre, Shrikant Bhartiya, Ram Shinde and Prasad Lad received above 26 votes, which was the cut-off required to win. Among the MVA candidates, Shiv Sena’s Sachin Ahir and Amshya Padvi, NCP’s Eknath Khadse and Ramraje Nimbalkar and Congress’ Ashok (Bhai) Jagtap won the election, while Chandrakant Handore lost.

While seemingly a tie, Monday’s results cemented BJP’s position as a powerful opposition and presented a grave challenge to the MVA parties, as it secured votes from independent and smaller parties as well as from ruling party legislators.

When Uddhav Thackeray took over as the head of the MVA following the 2019 assembly polls, the MVA had the support 169 MLAs, which on Monday stood at 150.

More worryingly for the MVA was the cross-voting that certainly ensued in Monday’s secret ballot. The results indicated that three Sena MLAs and two Congress MLAs did not vote for their party candidates.

Senior Congress leader and minister Balasaheb Thorat admitted that Congress MLAs had indulged in cross voting. “As a party we will have to introspect about what went wrong and I accept the responsibility of the defeat as the leader of the legislative party. I am also not denying that we have lost some of our votes, thus there is no point in blaming others (Sena and NCP) when we could not get our own votes,” Thorat said.

“All the three parties will have to sit together and deliberate on what is going wrong with the MVA so that corrective measures can be taken,” Thorat added.

Political experts said that this was a reflection of leader of opposition Devendra Fadnavis’ cohesive strategy, and an indication of the lack of one among the MVA constituents.

“This has happened because of the discontent among MLAs and rift within the ruling parties. It is a sign of the discontent among the people against the state government as well,” Fadnavis said

State NCP chief Jayant Patil said that the ruling parties fell short in strategy despite best efforts, but added that the opposition succeeded “using ill means”.

While no doubt the mathematics for the legislative council polls was complicated, the Fadnavis-led BJP seems to have perfected the arithmetic.

Number crunching

In a house of 287 MLAs, the BJP has 106 and could get four members elected on its own strength. The Shiv Sena with 55 MLAs and the NCP with 53 could manage two seats each with the help of supportive independents or smaller parties. The Congress with 44 MLAs, needed18 outside votes to get its second candidate elected. Each candidate needed 26 votes to get elected.

Two of BJP’s candidates (Shinde and Bharatiya) received 30 votes each — the highest among all candidates — while two others (Darekar and Khapre) secured 29 and 27 votes, respectively. Lad won in the fifth round of counting with 28 votes.

The party managed to secure 134 first preference votes, which indicates that it received 28 additional votes in the council polls. Further, the BJP received 11 more votes than it did in the Rajya Sabha elections held on June 10, where Shiv Sena candidate Sanjay Pawar was defeated by the BJP’s Dhananjay Mahadik.

With Khadse’s 29 votes and Nimbalkar’s 27 votes, the NCP got 57 first preference votes, including six surplus votes from smaller parties and independent MLAs. Sena’s Ahir and Padvi got 26 votes each, while Congress candidate Bhai Jagtap secured 25 votes to get elected in the tenth round of counting and was declared winner as he secured majority of the votes in the last round.

The results pointed to Fadnavis’s successful strategy, with the BJP requiring 24 additional votes to win its fifth seat and receiving 28 instead. The MVA, which has the support of 150 members (excluding two NCP legislators Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik, who are in jail on separate money-laundering charges), needed at least 14 more votes to win its fifth seat.

“The BJP won all five seats. We gained one more seat. In the Rajya Sabha polls, we had 123 votes but this time we had 133 votes. There is a Modi wave in Maharashtra and till we bring the BJP to power [in Maharashtra], we will not rest. We got more votes than Congress put together,” Fadnavis said.

As the fifth candidate of the party Prasad Lad was declared the winner, BJP leaders shouted slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ at the counting centre. Lad, who got 17 votes (of first preference), emerged victorious with 28 votes after counting went into the fifth round. Lad got surplus votes from Darekar, Bhartiya and Shinde.

The outcome of the council elections showed cracks within the MVA. Two Shiv Sena candidates together got 52 votes though it has 55 MLAs which means three of their MLAs did not vote for the party. Two Congress candidates together got 42 votes which means two of their MLAs voted for some other candidates. Only the NCP secured more votes than its strength in the assembly.

Counting delayed

The returning officer for the Maharashtra Legislative Council elections on Monday night invalidated two votes — one each of the ruling ally NCP and the opposition BJP — after objections were raised by leaders of the respective parties, an official said.

The objections and invalidation of votes led to the suspension of counting process by almost half an hour, he said.

The counting, originally scheduled to start at 5 pm, was delayed by over two hours after the Congress raised an objection to the votes cast by BJP MLAs Mukta Tilak and Laxman Jagtap. The ailing opposition legislators had cast their votes with the help of assistants, which was objected to by the Congress.

However, the Election Commission of India (ECI) rejected the Congress objection and gave a go ahead to counting of votes.

Later, a BJP leader raised an objection to a ballot that had the first preference vote to NCP candidate Ramraje Nimbalkar. Similarly, an objection came from the NCP against a ballot paper having first preference vote to BJP nominee Uma Khapre, the official said.

The returning officer at the Maharashtra Vidhan Bhavan in south Mumbai assessed the objections and declared both the ballot papers as invalid, he said. With this, the total number of valid votes went down to 283. The actual strength of the Assembly is 288, of which 285 MLAs were eligible to take part in polling as one seat is vacant, while two jailed members were barred from taking part in the process.

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